The internet, conceived as a way of building community, turned out to be particularly suited to the exercise of singular performative identity: to exist is to assert. It is also well suited to experiments in the exercise of power, through personal attacks that aim to crush the performative identities of others. If you exist only in what you assert, verbally, then any clever, verbal undermining of those assertions denies you reality and presence. You become nothing more than the disembodied voice of a treacherous, malevolent spirit, pleading, impotently for the return of the life you’ve lost, through an attention you don’t deserve: You have been cancelled.
In an atomised society, yet one where self-realisation is the ultimate good, the internet has become the only channel through which many of its users feel they can truly exist, communicate with others, and be recognised and acknowledged.
So, all their interactions are carried out in an atmosphere of grim intensity. Even the indiscriminate trolls, who pretend at a levity born of nihilism, pursue their quarries with surprising ferocity. It feels like quasi-religious fervour. I guess the individual ego has become the most sacred object, so anything other than complete unquestioning devotion to its pronouncements is the worst profanity. And yet terrible profanity is the most potent weapon that can be used against the minds of your enemies.